Guide to packaging your products as well as Amazon does it.
One of the most common mistakes made by new (and some who should know better) internet vendors is the incorrect packaging of products for delivery by post/ courier/parcel delivery services. Bad packaging and damaged goods are one of the biggest areas of complaint for internet buyers. Amazon is rightly regarded as the top global internet vendor. They do their packaging just right, ensuring customers receive their purchases in perfect condition. Repeat customers are happy customers. Having done all the hard work to win a customer, to lose them forever, because you did not pack their order properly, is a sin!. You can easily emulate the professionalism of Amazon for your shipments by following the packaging advice contained in this guide. All the products mentioned below are readily available at the lowest cost in Ireland from us at www.discountpackaging.ie
If you have a specific query as to how you should pack a special item, please ask our team of qualified packaging experts, for free! Please use the form below. We have been in the packaging business since 1860 so we know our stuff. We will email your expert packaging solution advice and specifications.
So how do I package my product for shipping?
While this is a simple question, it has no simple answer. The answer depends on three main factors;
1. What are you packaging?
2. How will it get to your customer?
3. Where is your customer?
We have prepared the following packaging guidelines to help you ensure that your products arrive safely to your customers. This guide has been developed to include the guidelines and rules of the major parcel and pallet delivery operators on Ireland including An Post, Fastway, JMC Vantrans, DPD, DHL, UPS etc.
Guide to size and weight limitations.
The table below outlines the size and weight limitations of some of the carriers here in Ireland. Most carriers use the volumetric weight to calculate charges. In Ireland and the UK, the rule of thumb to calculate the weight of your package is: Length x width x height in cm divided by 6,000 = kilos.
For example, our most popular shipping box LB733 with dimensions in centimetres : 56.3 x 38.3 x 38.6 ÷ 6000 = 14kgs.
Carriers also set limits on the physical size of parcels and they specify the maximum dimensions as the longest side of a package + the distance around the package (Girth). The “girth” is calculated as 2 x (depth + width).
So if you have an package that measures 563 x 383 x 386mm, the girth is calculated as follows: 2 x (383 + 386) = 1538mm and the overall dimension is calculated as Length + Girth : 563 + 1538 = 2101mm or 2.1m
Your choice of carrier should be based on a combination of rates, size & weight limitations, delivery schedule, convenience and reliability.
Once you have decided which carrier to use (and you obviously know what you are shipping), it is time to package you product. There are basically three essential components to any package:
1. Outer Packaging – box, wrapper, bag.
1. Outer Packaging
There are many different types of outer packaging that you can use to packageyour products. The most commonly used outer packaging materials you want to evaluate are:
Let’s look at the major outer packaging materials in detail.
Corrugated cases are by far the most popular type of outer packaging used today for a number of reasons;
All the major carriers suggest you use a new box rather than a used box. While this flies in the face of “reusing and recycling” it is important keep in mind that corrugated boxes are typically designed for a single use. The more often a box is used, the less protection it will offer. If you want to re-use a corrugated box, make sure that the box is in excellent condition, meaning the box should not have tears, corner damage or rips. Also it is very important to make sure that all the flaps are still intact.
The second factor to consider when using a corrugated box is to determine the strength of the box required. In general, boxes are be made from single wall or double wall corrugated board. Below are the guidelines published by UPS for using corrugated boxes.
Of course these are just guidelines and the correct choice of box will depend on the nature of the product you’re a packing. For example, a heavy rectangular shaped solid object will only need a single wall box because the board is really only being used as an outer wrap. The product itself provides the rigidity and strength for the pack. On the other hand, soft lightweight goods may need a double wall case because the products themselves are too soft to give any strength or support to the pack. The box alone must provide the strength and protection to the contents.
Corrugated mailers are similar to corrugated boxes, in that they are both made from corrugated board. The real difference between mailers and boxes is how they are assembled. Corrugated boxes as discussed earlier, are the type of boxes that, typically, have the flaps that meet in the middle and then need to be taped shut.
Mailers on the other hand, are the type of boxes that fold up and lock themselves shut. Corrugated mailers are typically used for smaller items or items that are relatively “flat” such as books or video games.
One significant advantage of corrugated mailers is the stacking strength (crush proof) they provide. The reason these mailers are so strong is because of the way they are assembled. When you fold up a corrugated mailer, either two or three of the walls (depending on the style) of the mailer will be formed by three layers of corrugated board. These extra layers of corrugated provide excellent protection for your products. The other advantage is the speed of assembly. With a crash lock base the boxes push into shape and are sealed with the self adhesive closure, eliminating the need for tape, glue or staples.
Another option for shipping items that cannot be folded or bent are these rigid corrugated board self seal envelopes. Sometimes called Stay Flat Mailers, they are designed to do just that – Stay Flat during shipping. These mailers are similar to the UPS or FedEx overnight letter mailers, but are much sturdier. They are perfect for shipping items such as photographs, iPads, Kindles, calendars, important documents, and even loose data discs. Most rigid board envelopes will have creases around the edges to allow for multiple height adjustment usually up to about 25mm thickness.
Postal tubes are an excellent outer packaging material when shipping posters, blueprints, artwork; printing plates, diplomas, calendars, or any other long, narrow item.
Unless you are purchasing a large quantity of tubes, you will want to purchase “stock” postal tubes. Most companies that stock tubes carry them with diameters of 38mm, 50mm, 75mm or 100mm and with standard lengths ranging from 430mm to 860mm. Normal round tubes are made from solid board and they require some form of additional end closure – often plastic caps which fit in either end and are then tape sealed shut. Traditionally postal tubes have been round tubes but they have a number of drawbacks. Extracting a rolled product from a round tube can be difficult. Your customer must poke a couple of fingers into the document and try pull it out against the wall of the tube which can lead to damage. You as the packer must make sure you have enough caps to go with your tubes, which usually becomes a problem as you get to the last of your stock and some caps are missing. The caps must then be further sealed with tape to secure the package. Another factor to take into account is that round tubes take up a lot of valuable storage space.
A more modern approach are square postal tubes which are even better for shipping as they will stack and are easier to handle. Some European postal and delivery services now surcharge for non-square tubes. Delivered flat with self-adhesive closure, they require little storage space and are fast to load and seal. They require no extra tape or staples to seal them and they weigh less than their equivalent round size, which can lead to postage savings for you. The flat surface makes labelling or attaching documents much easier.
Padded bubble bags are a cost effective and excellent choice for shipping products that need some degree of cushioning, but are not overly fragile. An example would be paperback books or DVD’s. The self adhesive closure makes these bags easy to use and very secure One important note to remember is that while these mailers provide excellent cushioning properties, they offer NO stacking strength. So if your product is something that can be easily crushed (i.e. chocolate chip cookies), you will want to use a corrugated box or mailer. One drawback they do have is that the plastic bubble inner cannot be separated from the paper outer for recycling, unless you use one that is recyclable like our Jiffy Air Kraft Bags.
If you want to send a gift or an important Direct Mail piece, consider using our own Snazzybubble metallic foil bubble bag to give some real impact, and of course great protection.
If the products you are shipping are not fragile, such as garments or catalogues, these bags may work well for you as they do for all the major catalogue companies. They are strong, water and tear resistant with a tough permanent self adhesive peel and seal closure for added security. They can also be used to send small to medium sized boxed items. For magazines, catalogues or brochures which are non confidential, clear lightweight polythene mailers are ideal. Usually available with either a permanent or resealable closure, they come in a range of stock sizes from small A6 up to large A3+ size. They also come as standard with or without a white write on panel. For confidential mailings, use an opaque coextruded poly mailer. These bags are used by courier companies and feature a black inner surface coupled with a permanent self adhesive closure for security. For clothing, soft toys, books etc, plain coloured mailers – metallic blue is a popular choice – are a simple and cost effective solution. The opaque blue plastic keeps prying eyes away and the permanent self adhesive closure keeps your goods secure. For something a bit more upmarket, metallic foil envelopes in assorted colours and sizes are a good choice and our Snazzybags are the market leader in this field.
To some it may be old fashioned, but kraft paper is still widely used as an outer wrap. Good quality pure kraft paper is extremely tough, flexible, water resistant and cost effective. Ideally suited to wrapping regular shaped items such as printed stationery, books or boxed goods, it can be slow and cumbersome. It requires subsequent taping or strapping to seal the package but does make an effective and secure outer wrap. Paper is ideal for writing on , sticking labels or document envelopes to. Don't make the mistake of using recycled or imitation kraft as an outer wrap. It is false economy and the bursting strength and tear strength is substantially inferior to pure kraft. Of course brown paper is still popular for covering the kids school books.
If you are shipping a product that is extremely fragile (eg. an original oil painting) or valuable (eg. high end computer equipment), or if you are shipping to an overseas customer, then, you may want to strongly consider using a wooden crate. Usually made from plywood, these crates are extremely tough and durable and provide the ultimate in protection.
Often times, if you only have a few products to ship, you can assemble a crate yourself. However, there are companies that specialize in supplying wooden crates. One option is to hire a company that will crate your product on site. This is very common when the item to be shipped is extremely large such as manufacturing or medical imaging equipment. Another option is to purchase stock size crates that you assemble yourself.
The following is a quick reference guide to the different outer packaging materials:
While there are some products, such as paperbacks, brochures or soft toys, that do not require the use of any inner packaging, most items require some type of protective packaging material in addition to the outer package.
The typical purposes of inner packaging are cushioning, void-fill, and surface protection. Cushioning refers to protecting a product from the shock that occurs during an impact – such as dropping the item. Void-fill refers to filling up the empty space in a box so as to prevent the packaged item from shifting and migrating during transport. Surface protection refers to protecting delicate surfaces (such as glass or printed materials) from scratching or scuffing during shipment.
There are two main reasons why properly protecting your product is important. Firstly, you want your product to arrive safely so that you have a happy customer. Secondly, did you know that while the major carriers will reimburse you for damage they cause during shipping, they won’t reimburse you if the product was inadequately packaged? So, you can see why properly protecting your product is so important; not only for your customers’ sake, but also for your protection.
So, how do I know what “adequately packaged” means? This is a very common question, and one with a relatively simple answer. Your product does not necessarily have to withstand a drop off of a two story building to be considered adequately packaged. When designing packaging for a particular product, most packaging engineers (and the major carriers) try to develop a package that will pass the ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) 3A, 2004 test. This test was developed to evaluate the ability of a package to adequately protect an item when shipped in typical small parcel distribution chains.
While this testing procedure includes a whole series of different tests, one of the most important pieces of information you need to keep in mind is the expected heights a product may be dropped from. If you design your package to withstand a drop from these heights, you can be relatively certain that your product will arrive safely to your customer.
With this information in mind, there are a variety of different materials you can use as inner packaging. Some of the most common materials include:
We will talk about the major inner packaging materials in detail below:
Bubblewrap is an extremely versatile protective material that is great as a cushioning material, void fill or surface wrap. Bubblewrap is available in two standard thicknesses. Small bubble at 4mm and large bubble at 10mm high. The small bubble would be the choice for intimate wrapping of goods whereas the large bubble is ideal for filling up empty spaces in cartons.
First, when you are using Bubblewrap as a cushioning material, make sure to use enough wrap so that all sides and corners are protected. Make sure that there is at least 50mm of bubble padding between your product and each wall of the box. You also want to make sure to use enough Bubblewrap to eliminate movement of the packaged item when you shake the box. When you are done packaging your product, shake it. If you feel the product moving, you need to add more packaging material. It’s always a good idea to overfill the box slightly and compress the packaging when you tape seal the box.
Pink Anti-static Bubblewrap is made from a special blend of plastic that provides protection for electronic components that may be damaged from static discharge.
PE Foam is similar to bubble in that it is another very versatile protective material that is usually used as a cushioning wrap or surface protection. The most common type of foam is made from low density polyethylene (LDPE) foam which is lightweight, soft and is non-abrasive. The major difference between Bubblewrap and foam, other than the obvious material differences, is that foam wrap is more resilient. What this means is that foam will provide cushioning protection after repeated impacts. Bubblewrap by its very nature, may or may not provide protection after repeated impacts, depending on whether the bubbles burst during impact.
Foam wrap is typically available in thicknesses from 1mm up to 4mm. It is also available in other options such as adhesive, cohesive or anti-static foam. Adhesive foam has an adhesive backing that will stick to virtually any other surface. Cohesive foam is similar to adhesive foam, but it sticks only to itself. And anti-static foam is made from a special blend of plastic that provides protection for electronic components that may be damaged from static discharge.
Loosefill is primarily used as a lightweight void fill and is not recommended as a cushioning material. This is because items packaged in only loosefill can shift and migrate towards the exterior of the box. The closer your product is to the exterior of the box, the more likely it will be damaged during shipment. However, loosefill is a great, lightweight and cost effective void fill. When using loosefill, you must overfill the box by at least 50mm to allow for the natural settling during shipment. Modern loosefill is made from degradable recycled polystyrene and is simple to use. Just bear in mind that your customer has to open the box to retrieve the goods and loosefill can be a nuisance to handle and dispose of.
Foam in Place
Foam in place is the closest material you can get to engineered foam. This type of foam provides excellent cushioning properties, and is very versatile in that it moulds around the product to be packaged. Foam in place is made from two chemicals and when these chemicals are mixed together, they foam up and expand around your product. It is an ideal material for companies that ship many different configurations of fragile products. It is really only suited to big industrial users because of the equipment and chemicals needed. It has no place really for small home or online businesses.
Engineered foams provide the ultimate in product protection. They come in a variety of different types, the most popular being polystyrene, polyethylene, and polyurethane. These foams are primarily used in high volume situations such as computer manufacturing. The reason for this is because the design and manufacturing process can be quite complex and expensive. The foams are usually designed based on the weight of the product, the psi loading of the foam, and the cushioning properties (cushion curves) of the type of foam to be used. Once the design is completed, most engineered foams can only be manufactured with a special type of mould that is custom made to the design. These special moulds can range anywhere from €1000 to €25,000 or more depending on the design and type of foam. This cost is incurred before a single piece of foam is manufactured. There is then still a cost for each piece of foam manufactured. On the other hand there are some packaging companies that will custom make one off pieces of engineered foam, usually from polyethylene, and like all things custom made, they can be quite expensive.
Air pillows are an excellent and cost effective void fill option. The inflatable pillows are supplied as deflated bags in roll form that are inflated by the user when the product is packaged. One major advantage of inflatable packaging is that because they are shipped deflated, the cost of inbound shipping is greatly reduced as opposed to other void fills such as loosefill. Typically one roll of air pillows the size of a kettle equates to a small van load of loosefill. Other benefits of inflatable packaging include warehouse space savings, its ease of use and its clean professional appearance. Volume for volume, air pillows are the cheapest form of space filler available. They are also the lightest which is a major consideration if your chosen carrier charges you by weight for your packages. Your customer will also appreciate receiving air pillows in their package as they can be reused or deflated and recycled very easily. As a user you will need a special machine to inflate the pillows and in some instances they can be had for free.
Various types of paper can be used as a void fill or for surface protection. When using any type of paper as a void fill, it is recommended that you tightly crumple the paper and use at least 100mm of paper between your product and the sides of the box. The most common type of paper used in these applications is imitation kraft paper. Other papers used include newsprint, tissue, shredded paper and single-faced corrugated rolls. These papers are available in rolls or sheets, and come in a variety of thicknesses or weights from 40gsm up to 120gsm. The grammage basically translates into the thickness of the paper. A 90gsm kraft paper would be thicker than a 60gsm paper. The thicker the paper, the more protection it will provide. The big downside to crumpled or shredded paper is it’s lack of memory and it’s weight. Compared to air pillows for example, the same volume of crumpled paper will weigh considerably more thus adding to your shipping costs. The lack of memory means that once crumpled, paper will not try to regain it’s original shape which will lead to settling and movement of your goods inside the box.
Corrugated board is not only used to make outer boxes, it is also a multi-purpose inner packaging material. If you are packing the same item in multiple boxes then a die cut corrugated insert specially tooled for your product is a simple and effective solution. These inserts are designed to keep the packaged product from moving inside the outer carton or to separate multiple products – a case of wine being the obvious example. Layers of corrugated board can be glued together into blocks or thick pads. These can then be used in blocking and bracing applications. Simple corrugated pads can also be used as dividers between layers of items. Using a sheet of board you can easily make your own custom insert with a straight edge, ruler, sharp blade and a little imagination.
The following table is a quick reference guide to the various types of inner packaging discussed above:
Now that we’ve packed our product, let’s look at the final closure of the package.
You have taken the time to carefully choose your outer packaging and your inner packaging and now it’s time to bring it all together and create the final package ready for shipping. If your sealing method fails your package will ultimately fail as well. Therefore, properly sealing your package is just as important as the choice of inner or outer packaging.
There are a few options to sealing a package and they are;
By far, the most popular method of sealing is adhesive tape. There are many different types of tape available which are suitable for sealing packages, the most common type being pressure sensitive tape. It is called pressure sensitive tape because the tape must be applied with a small amount of pressure to the surface being sealed. These tapes are typically made from a plastic backing coated with different types of adhesive. The type of backing and adhesive used has a big bearing on the cost and performance. Polypropylene tape with an acrylic adhesive is the cheapest and most commonly used. PVC or vinyl is more expensive but performs better. Reinforced tape with criss-cross nylon strands is the strongest packaging tape and is virtually indestructible. The width and thickness of the tape will determine how much tape you need in order to seal your box with 48/50mm being the most popular. For the environmentally conscious, there is also Paper self adhesive packaging tape which when used to seal corrugated cases means the packaging can be recycled as paper with the need to remove the tape.
Another common type of tape used in sealing packages is water activated gummed tape. This tape is different from pressure sensitive tape because the adhesive used must be moistened with water to be activated – similar to the adhesive on the envelopes used to mail letters. Gummed tape is sometimes reinforced with fibreglass strands running through the tape. These strands make reinforced gummed tape much stronger than most pressure sensitive sealing tapes, and as a result, you can use less tape per package when sealing boxes. Because of the bonding of the adhesive with the outer layer of your box, the tape destroys the carton on removal making pilferage very noticeable if it happens.
There are three main types of strapping: polypropylene, polyester and steel. For most companies or individuals packing small to medium size parcels, polypropylene is the one to use. Strapping is used as an additional seal and provides a useful means of carrying a box and also acts as a security seal. It’s not that easy to tamper with a strapped package without leaving obvious signs. Using polypropylene strapping requires a tool to tension and seal the strap. These can be hand tools, semi-automatic machines or fully automatic machines. The seal is achieved by crimping a small metal seal or by friction in the semi and fully automatic machines.
Twine is still used to tie up packages although it’s use has been surpassed by strapping as mentioned earlier. There are two main twines, Polypropylene and Sisal. Sisal is the old fashioned traditional hairy twine which now finds more use in arts and crafts than in packaging.
Hot melt glue can be used to secure the flaps of corrugated cases. It has limited applications but does provide a secure strong tamper evident seal on boxes. A simple electric glue gun is required to apply the glue which comes in stick form.
Confined to securing the flaps on corrugated cases, stapling is a secure sealing method used mainly in industrial applications. A separate carton bottom and carton top machine is needed and both use a metal staple to close the carton.
Food, Powder/Granule and Liquids
If you are sending greasy or strong smelling foodstuffs, it is vital that they are packed in suitable sealed packaging such as polythene bags, vacuum bags or foil laminate bags which can be sealed with an inexpensive heat-sealer. Grip seal bags are often a good option, with a larger range of sizes available in standard gauge and a number of sizes in heavy gauge. Bear in mind that grip seal bags do not provide a liquid proof seal. For stronger smelling items, you really need to go for the vacuum or foil bag options.
For packing powders or granular products Stand-up PP gusset bags, polythene bags and grip seals are generally the best choice. If however your product is hygroscopic (absorbs moisture) you will need a laminated barrier bag. Please contact us for specific solutions. We produce custom plain and printed pouches in-house.
For liquids and gels, in addition to using well sealed containers it is advisable to use a leak proof intermediate packaging such as a sealed polythene bags or even a grip seal bag. Even if the primary container leaks or breaks, the overall package will not be contaminated by the contents. Most freight companies will require this precautionary packaging to be used.
So as you can see, the answer to the question of “how do I package my product” is not as simple as it sounds, but we hope that these guidelines help you in some way. If you have any questions at all regarding packaging methods or materials, please feel free to contact our customer service advisors on 01 464 7300 or email@example.com.